Microvascular networks in the area of the auditory peripheral nervous system

Han Jiang, Xiaohan Wang, Jinhui Zhang, Allan Kachelmeier, Ivan A. Lopez, Xiaorui Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Using transgenic fluorescent reporter mice in combination with an established tissue clearing method, we detail heretofore optically opaque regions of the spiral lamina and spiral limbus where the auditory peripheral nervous system is located and provide insight into changes in cochlear vascular density with ageing. We found a relatively dense and branched vascular network in young adults, but a less dense and thinned network in aged adults. Significant reduction in vascular density starts early at the age of 180 days in the region of the spiral limbus (SL) and continues into old age at 540 days. Loss of vascular volume in the region of spiral ganglion neurons (SGN) is delayed until the age of 540 days. In addition, we observed that two vascular accessory cells are closely associated with the microvascular system: perivascular resident macrophages and pericytes. Morphologically, perivascular resident macrophages undergo drastic changes from postnatal P7 to young adult (P30). In postnatal animals, most perivascular resident macrophages exhibit a spherical or nodular shape. In young adult mice, the majority of perivascular resident macrophages are elongated and display an orientation parallel to the vessels. In our imaging, some of the perivascular resident macrophages are caught in the act of transmigrating from the blood circulation. Pericytes also display morphological heterogeneity. In the P7 mice, pericytes are prominent on the capillary walls, relatively large and punctate, and less uniform. In contrast, pericytes in the P30 mice are relatively flat and uniform, and less densely distributed on the vascular network. With triple fluorescence labeling, we did not find obvious physical connection between the two systems, unlike neuronal-vascular coupling found in brain. However, using a fluorescent (FITC-conjugated dextran) tracer and the enzymatic tracer horseradish peroxidase (HRP), we observed robust neurovascular exchange, likely through transcytotic transport, evidenced by multiple vesicles present in the endothelial cells. Taken together, our data demonstrate the effectiveness of tissue-clearing methods as an aid in imaging the vascular architecture of the SL and SGNs in whole mounted mouse cochlear preparations. Structure is indicative of function. The finding of differences in vascular structure in postnatal and young adult mice may correspond with variation in hearing refinement after birth and indicate the status of functional activity. The decrease in capillary network density in the older animals may reflect the decreased energy demand from peripheral neural activity. The finding of active transcytotic transport from blood to neurons opens a potential therapeutic avenue for delivery of various growth factors and gene vectors into the inner ear to target SGNs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-116
Number of pages12
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Mouse cochlea
  • Spiral ganglion neuron
  • Spiral limbus
  • Tissue clearing
  • Vasculature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'Microvascular networks in the area of the auditory peripheral nervous system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this